Brendan Benson – Alternative to Love

Memorable tunes from start to finish.

Memorable tunes from start to finish.


There’s been a lot written, elsewhere it has to be said, about Brendan Benson being friends with Jack White. Yes, Brendan comes from Detroit. Yes, he’s friends with Jack White and yes they have both been working in the studio together lately; but if anybody thinks that Brendan Benson and Jack White are cut from the same musical cloth then they’re very wrong indeed.


Ok, so they are both very good songwriters, but whereas Jack White inhabits a world of sleazy blues riffs and power chords, Brendan Benson is almost the flip side of that. Brendan’s world is full of happy chords and vocal harmonies. If Jack White’s music is quick, dirty sex in a back alleyway, (exciting and dangerous), then Benson’s songs are a slow, gentle screw in a field on a summer’s day. Gentle, beautiful, memorable but still exciting.


A lot of music journalists spend their time looking for the next best thing, the next movement, the next…something. They always want something new, something original, something weird and wonderful. Which is kind of missing the point really.


Surely what we’re all after is something entertaining? If you listen to a song and it makes you smile or it makes you tap your feet, if it gets under your skin and makes you feel good then it’s done its job and it’s done it well. For most people, that’s all they’re after. I’m not saying music shouldn’t be challenging and thought provoking; far from it, but sometimes you don’t want to hear a musical masterpiece of invention and imagination. You might not have the time. Sometimes you want to listen to a good, old fashioned, decent pop song. Four minutes of fun. Brendan Benson provides that.


Now don’t get me wrong, that’s not an insult. Brendan Benson provides top quality entertainment. His last album, Lapalco, is one of my favourite records of the past few years and Alternative To Love, his latest album, is another wonderful record. I don’t need to go into great detail about the music and the chord changes and the vocal harmonies and all the other wordy bollocks we journos like to use to try and tell you that something sounds good. All I really need to tell you is that everything sounds good.


There’s nothing new here. There’s no revolutionary new musical structure or technique; but that doesn’t mean it’s an album with no merit. Even the cover looks like it was designed in the late 1960’s. Alternative to Love is a great album, filled with clever pop songs that stick in your mind for days but don’t annoy you. In fact, the song Pledge of Allegiance sounds so rock n’roll (as in the 1950’s style) that it should be delivered to your car by a girl on rollerskates along with a cheeseburger and malt shake. It’s simple, pure Americana and it’s fabulous. The title track may be the most hummable song you’ll here all year and it deserves a place on every indie dancefloor this year. I tell you, Brendan deserves to be as big as his friend Jack.


If you’re looking for a new album that’s filled with memorable tunes from start to finish, that has something you can dance to, something that sounds good on a walkman and something you can pop on the cd player whilst you’re cooking in the kitchen, I’d heartily recommend Alternative to Love. You get 12 top quality pop songs. They’re catchy, they’re memorable and they’re very, very entertaining. What more do you want from an album?


Words: Damian Leslie